James Esseks

LGBT & HIV Project

James D. Esseks is Director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project.  He joined the Project as Litigation Director in 2001 and has been in his current position since 2010.  James oversees litigation, legislative lobbying, policy advocacy, organizing, and public education around the country that aims to ensure equal treatment of LGBT people and people living with HIV.  James was counsel in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that won the freedom to marry nationwide.  Previously, he represented Edie Windsor in the United States v. Windsor DOMA challenge; was counsel in Schroer v. Billington, where a federal court ruled that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination covers transgender people; and was counsel in successful challenges to bans on adoption and foster parenting by lesbians and gay men in Florida, Arkansas, and Missouri.  He has also worked extensively to ensure that claims of religious liberty are not used as an excuse to harm others, including LGBT people.

Prior to joining the ACLU, he was a partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., in New York. He graduated from Yale College and Harvard Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He clerked for U.S. Circuit Judge James R. Browning on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Carter in the Southern District of New York.

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